Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness: I still keep in touch with Ian Paisley

Author: By Noel McAdam

?Ian has my mobile number and I have his,? said Martin McGuinness. ?It?s fair
to say we have a good on-going personal relationship.?

Mr McGuinness said he would talk to his ex power-sharing partner ?now and
again?.

The senior Sinn Fein man said he had phoned Mr Paisley, for example, when
requests had come, mostly from sections of the media, requesting them to
appear together again.

?I always look back on our period together with great fondness, we had the
ability to work together,? he disclosed. ?I would speak to him now and again
on the telephone ? and this is coming from someone who despised Ian Paisley
for most of my adult life.

?But during the course of the year when we were in the Office of First and
Deputy First Minister it was quite obvious to the public that we had the
ability to be cordial and even friendly with each other.?

Mr McGuinness said he believes his former arch-enemy set an example for
everybody in our society ?about where we need to go?.

?Ian Paisley, if he rings my office, it is answered straight away,? he said.

?Sometimes people come forward with different ideas, mostly from the media,
about the prospect that we might do certain things together in terms of
interviews and so forth.?

Mr McGuinness insists he has a good ? but different ? relationship with Peter
Robinson

?Peter is a different personality from Ian Paisley but in my time in this
office I have always understood the importance of treating people with
respect.?

Mr McGuinness said he has good relations with every minister on the Executive,
but in the Assembly there are ?one or two? SDLP MLAs who do not talk to him.

?If they pass me in the corridor they do not even say hello, even now. I am
very philosophical about all of that.

?Peter and I have a good personal relationship and we clearly showed prior to
the last meeting of the Executive that we had the ability to crunch down on
issues that were a source of division between us.?

While there are ?huge challenges? ahead for the Executive, not least in terms
of the econo

my, Mr McGuinness revealed: ?There was a batch of issues that had been the
source of disagreement and the fact that we were able to agree is something
we can take considerable succour from.

?Apart from policing and justice we also cleared quite a number of papers that
were presenting some difficulty for us in the run-in to that meeting, but as
a result of the effort made by both parties we saw the DUP and Sinn Fein
crunch down on a number of issues and reach agreement. I take some comfort
from that. Many people out there in the community would wonder in the
aftermath of the European election whether or not this process was going to
stall or move forward and I think the work by the Executive at the last
meeting certainly presents a good omen. But that alone is not enough. We
need to keep going, to continue to forge agreements between us.?

He refuses to go into detail but, apart from the policing and justice draft
legislation, the meeting also put through rates measures to help households
and small businesses, a public consultation on co-ordinated funding for
victims and survivors of the Troubles and planning policy on renewable
energy, as well as regional transportation and an energy ?action plan?.

Mr McGuinness recalls what he views as a key moment when he and Mr Robinson
visited the Press Association offices in central Belfast last Christmas.

?Normally we are driven right up to the door, but the streets were thronged
and I couldn?t get up to the door with people coming up and telling me they
were from the Shankill, Rathcoole or Lambeg and saying ?can I shake you
hand? and ?youse are doing a great job?. These were not people who had
converted to republicanism but that clearly showed me that, yes, there is
diminishing opposition but the overwhelming majority want to see these
institutions working, though working better.?

* Source: Belfast Telegraph

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